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Photos from luxury couple itinerary video shoot. Courtesy of Visit Franklin.

A Weekend on the Masters & Makers Trail

Up for an adventure? Explore the Masters and Makers Trail, which covers more than 70 scenic miles to visit two distilleries, two microbreweries, and an award-winning vineyard, for samples and stories. 

It’s easy to spend a weekend on the Masters and Makers Trail, delving into both the history of spirits that came to the western frontier in the 18th century and the cutting-edge craft of brewing, distilling, and winemaking happening today. 

When you’re ready to start the Masters & Makers Trail, be sure to sign up for the free digital passport here and check in virtually at four of the five trail locations to be eligible for a prize from the visitor center in downtown Franklin. 

Friday: Curio Brewing Co.

Start the weekend off right at Curio Brewing Company,  the most recent addition to the Masters & Makers Trail. The location is more utilitarian and the food options are few, but their fresh-baked pretzels and muffins hit the spot, and food trucks often set up in the parking lot.

What makes Curio worth a visit is what’s happening in the back of the house – it turns out that cold-brew coffee and craft beer can be produced with the same equipment.

Being lovers of both, the visionaries at Curio decided to take the plunge from their coffee bean-roasting company into full-scale beverage production, and now offer it all from their location in Franklin.

The star of their curated line-up is the 8.1% ABV coffee milk stout, and they currently offer an orange hazy IPA and a Scottish ale, as well, alongside rotating guest taps. In addition to the cold brew, the barista can make a range of espresso-based drinks to order.

Saturday: Leiper’s Fork Distillery, H Clark Distillery, & Mill Creek Brewing Co.

Leiper’s Fork Distillery

Among the Masters and Makers Trail stops, the distilleries might be the most unique destinations – true craft spirits being made by hand in small quantities, and they’re passionate about what they do.

Next up on your Masters & Makers Trail itinerary is Leiper’s Fork Distillery. The soaring Still House is anchored by a 500-gallon copper pot still, and Master Distiller Lee Kennedy shares his story and insights as he guides guests through the maze of mash bins and barrel ricks.

Two antebellum log cabins were disassembled and rebuilt on-site, and now serve as the tasting room and shop, loaded with unique gifts and mementos.

Kennedy opened in 2016, introducing a white whiskey that honors the moonshining history of Williamson County’s Scots-Irish settlers, with a traditional (and locally grown) corn/rye/malted barley mash bill.

True to the “Lincoln County Process,” the spirits are filtered through sugar maple charcoal before being barreled for aging. Now four years later, Leiper’s Fork Distillery is able to offer a 100-proof Bottled in Bond Tennessee Whiskey that is 100-percent local, from the corn grown on Kennedy’s farm.

Be sure to check the events calendar, and keep an eye out for the return of the Still House Sessions. Like most places tucked away in these hills, live music is liable to show up any time.

H Clark Distillery

When Tennessee’s Prohibition-era laws were finally changed in 2009 to allow for craft distilling across the state, it was a former Williamson County state representative, along with a local layer and distiller who were largely responsible for the win. Folks in the hills of middle Tennessee may have never stopped making liquor through the years, but these days it’s mostly done honestly, by artisans dedicated to the craft and the history.

At H Clark Distillery in Thompson’s Station, attorney Heath Clark started with a tabletop still in his garage while still practicing law. After helping change state law in 2009, in 2014, he opened the first legal distillery in Williamson County in over 100 years, converting the old town granary across from the rail depot into a picture-perfect facility from which to operate.

He started with a dry gin, a spirit he loved that didn’t need to age for years, and then put some in a barrel to replicate the mellowing process that happened unintentionally on the overseas journey to America centuries ago.

That result was H Clark’s heirloom gin; over the years, he’s expanded to whiskeys – a bourbon, a rye, and a Black & Tan, a malted whiskey enhanced by dark-roasted chocolate malt. Tours and tastings are available on weekends and by appointment, and you won’t want to miss this one.

Mill Creek Brewing Co.

Finish your Saturday on the Masters & Makers Trail with a beer and a burger! Since 2014, Mill Creek Brewing Company down in Nolensville has been crafting some of the region’s most celebrated beers and seltzers, and among the proliferation of breweries in the Middle Tennessee area over the last decade, that’s saying something.

The core brews at Mill Creek – two lagers, a delightful citrus-infused wheat called Little Darlin’, and three IPAs (including a low-cal one!) have become mainstream hits among locals.

But they don’t stop there… at any given time, the brewers at Mill Creek may have a dozen other seasonal beers on offer, and they’ve gotten into the hard seltzer game in a big way too. Currently, lime, tangerine, peach, and watermelon are available.

The taproom at Mill Creek is an experience in itself, and not just for the beverages. A full food menu includes standard pub fare with some twists, such as flash-fried smoked cauliflower, along with fantastic burgers and sandwiches.

Among our favorites is the Smashville (which won the Nashville Scene’s Burger Week competition not long ago) and the BLT with barrel sauce. Whatever your choice, a summer afternoon or evening at the Mill Creek Taproom is sure to be time well spent.

Sunday: Arrington Vineyards

The art of winemaking – introducing airborne yeasts to the natural sugars in fruit juice to create a delicious fermentation – has long been a part of farm life in the south, but country superstar Kix Brooks brought a more elevated “wine country” experience to the little town of Arrington back in 2007.

Today, Arrington Vineyards’ 200-plus verdant acres include 16 cultivated grapes, grown from proven rootstock imported from the Napa Valley and other regions. About 20 percent of their wines are produced from grapes grown on the property, with the harvest in September yielding juice that produces red, white, and rosé blends that have been recognized far beyond Tennessee.

All told, 21 labels are offered for tasting and bottle sales, made from grapes grown in California, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington. The 2019 Sparkle won Double Gold Medal and Best of Class at the East Meets West Wine Competition earlier this year, and the 2019 Firefly Rosé did the same at the 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

That’s not all that Arrington Vineyards has to offer – weekends also include live music and picnics on the hillside overlooking the rows of trellises. Visitors are welcome to bring their own food and drink, and gourmet provisions by Simply Living Life are also available for purchase on-site.

Start Planning Your Masters & Makers Trail Weekend

It’s easy to spend a weekend on the Masters and Makers Trail, delving into both the history of spirits that came to the western frontier in the 18th century and the cutting-edge craft of brewing, distilling, and winemaking happening today.

Uber and Lyft are easily available, as do a range of wonderful lodging options, such as the highly regarded Aloft in Cool Springs, the new Harpeth Hotel on Main Street in downtown Franklin, Pot ‘N Kettle Cottages in Leiper’s Fork, and several short-term rental options throughout the county.

It’s all here for you to explore! We simply ask that you enjoy it responsibly.

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